HomeAAPI ActorsAsian Americans seen in a new light on Sesame Street

Asian Americans seen in a new light on Sesame Street

By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent

There’s something about seeing a Korean American rock star that’s refreshing.

Seeing it on Sesame Street makes it that much better.

Ji-Young, the first Asian American character on Sesame Street, made her debut on Thanksgiving Day on HBO Max. She’s not only Korean American, but she’s in a rock band. It’s not often you see Korean Americans portrayed as rock musicians. It counters the stereotype.

The episode is already posted by Sesame Street Workshop on YouTube for those who don’t have an HBO subscription.

The opening sequence shows Mr. Alan, Alan Muraoka, celebrating Neighbor Day with Ji-Young and Elmo.

Mr Alan shows off his moves doing a Japanese folk dance and Ji-Young, an up-and-coming rock star, generates oohs and ahhs with her guitar riff of a Korean song her grandma taught her.

Seeing this behavior normalized sends a strong message to children that Asians are as American as apple pie.

It’s not too long, however, before Ji-Young realizes not everyone agrees. The character as portrayed by puppeteer Kathy Kim, becomes sad after being told by another kid that she should “go back home.”

“I’m sad and I’m scared,” said Ji-Young.

Mr. Alan explains to Elmo why that’s hurtful to be told you don’t belong on Sesame Street, to be told that that can’t be your home because you’re from a different country.

Throughout the episode, Mr. Alan introduces Ji-Young to several other Asian Americans on Sesame Street including a Filipino boy, a Hawaiian woman, and an Indian American family. Each is proud to show a different aspect of their unique Asian American culture.

This episode makes it clear that Asian Americans are not a monolith. Numerous characters from each distinct Asian American identity are portrayed.

Guest starring are hapa actress Anna Cathcart, Padma Lakshmi, and Simu Liu along with a few more surprise appearances.

This is a must-see for the children in your life, and as with many Sesame Street episodes, there’s plenty for the grown ups too.

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